The FIFA World Cup has begun. Goldman Sachs has devised an algorithm that says Brazil will win, so maybe it's a foregone conclusion. Some teams (eg. the U.S.) haven't even qualified.
Even so, when you work in a bank, there are a few things you need to know about World Cup season. I've lived through several, and they require careful handling.
1. You need to keep up with what's going on
Even if you're not that interested in soccer, you need to be interested in the World Cup. These are four weeks of banter, office sweepstakes and Word Cup small talk. If you're not a part of it, you're going to miss a huge networking opportunity - both with clients and colleagues. If you have any kind of sales or client facing role, you absolutely need to be able to talk about the World Cup as an alternative to discussing the weather or summer holidays.
It helps that TVs on the trading floor are switched to the World Cup constantly. You have no excuse.
2. You must not come into the office wearing your national flag
Banks are places of multiple nationalities. While it's ok to be quietly patriotic about your national team, full jingoism ifs frowned upon. On the trading floor, the most you can do is to put a flag on your desk. Everyone's very competitive about their team, but it's very amicable competition. You must be low key.
3. If you haven't already booked-up client events for days when major teams are playing (eg. England), you are far too late
When you work in sales, the World Cup is about client entertainment. We arrange a lot of client events at bars and rooftop clubs. It's all about entertaining clients during key games. If you haven't arranged something for known games already, you're too late.
4. If you're entertaining clients, you can drink at lunch but do NOT come back
It's usually unacceptable to drink at lunchtime - particularly if you work for a U.S. investment bank. During World Cup season, exceptions can be made when you're entertaining clients - but do not come back into the office after the game. Most U.S. banks will not allow you to leave your desk or the trading floor during a game (even if it's your own team). Smaller houses and brokerages firms are more likely to be lenient.
5. Don't presume you can get away with doing less work
Just because you like the World Cup, don't assume clients do too. Some clients will always make it very clear that they consider it to be business as usual during World Cup season and that they won't be slowing down. I've even had client telling me that he hates the World Cup for the distraction it brings.
Howard Smith is the pseudonym of a salesman in the City of London
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